Monday, September 14, 2009

The Function of Book Blogging at the Present Time

"A Commonplace Blog" and "Anecdotal Evidence" have been hosting a symposium on bookblogging, which has been full of interesting ideas and insights.

Symposium Opening

Walter Aske of Elberry's Ghost
Nigel Beale of Nota Bene Books
Mark Athitakis of American Fiction Notes
Brad Bigelow of The Neglected Books Page
Miriam Burstein of The Little Professor
Michael Gilleland of Laudator Temporis Acti
Patrick Kurp of Anecdotal Evidence
James Marcus of House of Mirth
Ron Slate of On the Seawall
Levi Stahl of I've been reading lately
Benjamin Stein of Turmsegler
Terry Teachout of About Last Night
Frank Wilson of Books, Inq. -- The Epilogue
Summing Up

Every one makes for interesting reading. Thanks to Miriam for the kind words; it's always nice when someone whose opinion you respect thinks you are doing something right.

On the "nature of the beast" question that Myers discusses in the Summing Up post, I think that it partly helps to put the whole matter into perspective: this is hardly exclusive to blogging, because it's the beast in discourse itself. Discourse within particular domains, e.g., academic conferences or publication venues, involve conventions and restraints to limit its expression. To some extent blogging opens up previously protected domains to anyone who happens by, and lifts some of the sanctions and enforcements that limit those who are already there; it thus means that book blogging, and any other blogging, has to deal with the way discourse usually works in an arena where no one is policing or potentially looking over your shoulder in ways that could harm your career. Thus everyone has to deal with people whose idea of reasoning is to try to cram you forcefully into the little intellectual world of which they are the center; we all occasionally deal with commenters or fellow bloggers who apparently think it self-evident that we should be parroting their own views; and there are always people who have no conception of blogging as a medium for learning and self-teaching. For that matter, except where we've put in safeguards to prevent it, we probably all have our moments when we tend toward this ourselves; some people just do a better job at letting the moments pass. And so I think another way to look at the issue D. G. Myers raises is to ask, "How can discourse about literature advance in such an open and unprotected domain?" Putting the question that way, I think, is one way to see the attraction of his suggested answer, whether one agrees with it or not. It's a question, of course, that has to be raised by bloggers of other types, as well.

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